Last night the Chicago Bulls pulled off what looked like a stunning upset over the Boston Celtics. First, I might dispute that.
Any team that starts Brian Scalbrine and gives significant minutes to Baby Davis is in a huge hole to begin with. Why Doc Rivers is loath to use the more productive Shelden Williams is probably the same reason my friend Richard Hendrix is languishing in Spain (and he is my friend! I’m going to post the nice note he sent me. Remember on Bucks Diary when I was promoting his cause so vigorously people started making fun of me? Apparently he read those posts!).
Anyway, the reason I think Chicago won is they dominated the Celtics with their superior “height”. On any night the Bulls are amongest the most “effective height” blessed teams in the NBA. When you match them against a Celtic lineup with Garnett and Wallace replaced by the two clowns mentioned above, the Bulls were dominant.
Ever since Naismith told the janitor to mount the peach baskets up on the railing instead of placing them on the ground, he set in train the natural selection for height, or more specifically “length”, and jumping ability in the sport of basketball (I would argue he also relegated it to niche sport as well. I’ll get into it another day but my theory is that basketball would be the national pastime going away if it weren’t for the “freakish” nature of its participants. The broad public will simply never relate to a sport dominated by athletes on the basis of one specific characteristic. That’s why steroids is such an emotional issue in baseball and ignored in other sports. People, rightly or wrongly, view baseball as a sport that can be played by anyone and thus divining advantage through chemical strengh is anathema.)
But sometimes its hard to accurately guage how “tall” a team is because head height can be deceptive and can be overcome in some instances by leaping ability. So what we want to know is a team’s “effective height”.
Ken Pomeroy, the college basketball analyst, has determined that three statistics explain “effective height” the best, here listed in order of importance: Block percentage, 2 point defense, and effective field goal percentage.
Based on those three criteria, weighted by me with block percentage being given the most weight, I “measured” each NBA team to see which had the most effective height. Here are my results ranked from teams that play the “tallest” to teams that play the “smallest”":
NBA teams ranked by “Effective Height”
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (.642)
2. Chicago Bulls (.650)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (.656)
4. Indiana Pacers (.670)
5. LA Clippers (.670)
6. Miami Heat (.670)
7. Dallas Mavericks (.670)
8. Boston Celtics (.685)
9. Orlando Magic (.688)
10. Atlanta Hawks (.700)
11. Philadelphia Sixers (.704)
12. Charlotte Bobcats (.706)
13. LA Lakers (.712)
14. Toronto Raptors (.721)
15. Washington Wizards (.722)
16. Denver Nuggets (.726)
17. San Antonio Spurs (.731)
18. Utah Jazz (.736)
19. New Jersey Nets (.747)
20. Portland Blazers (.748)
21. Sacramento Kings (.759)
23. Phoenix Suns (.765)
24. Milwaukee Bucks (.768)
25. Memphis Grizzlies (.780)
26. New York Knicks (.788)
27. Houston Rockets (.808)
28. New Orleans Hornets (.810)
29. Golden State Warriors (.813)
3o. Minnesota Timberwolves (.832)
I guess the only real surprise is the Los Angeles Lakers, who feature Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. They were hurt by the fact that they don’t block shots. But as HoopData pointed out recently, that may simply be by choice. The Lakers still do the best job of defending the rim, and it may be that they have been ordered not to swat at shots. That’s actually an incredibly intelligent strategy (the risk of fouling usually far outweighs the potential benefit gained by shot blocking — basically because free throws are costly and not every blocked shot was going through the net).
The Bucks ranking points up the task before Scott Skiles. He’s done an absolutely fabulous job molding his undertalented, undersized, underathletic, underskilled team in to something that doesn’t resemble absolute garbage. Whatever the Bucks accomplish this season is due entirely to him and I’ll give the numbers to back that up in a subsequent post.
Footnote: The note from PF Richard Hendrix:
“Thanks Man, I have read several of your blogs and I really appreciate your support. I’m playing this season in the Spanish ACB League and off to a pretty good start as far as my production is concerned. Hopefully NBA execs with read your Blog and give ya boy a chance! Again, thank you for the kind words and take care!”